marriage and family: September 2004 Archives

prayer request

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My youngest is having surgery tomorrow to remove a cyst on her wrist. She has been in pretty constant pain for 6 months now, and has continued to play her cello and do all her other stuff despite the pain. We are hoping and praying that the surgery will ultimately help her and be worth the short term increase in pain and the temporary disability of healing. Please hold her surgical team up in prayer for tomorrow that things go smoothly.

interesting quote


“Artificial methods [of contraception] are like putting a premium on vice. They make men and women reckless.... Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws… If artificial methods become the order of the day, nothing but moral degradation can be the result.”
Mahatma Gandhi
(found in Fr. Sibley's outline)

a slightly different set of thoughts

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I'm on an email list for discussion of the Theology of the Body. Every so often, one of the list members has an idea that is a little off topic but worth discussing. What follows is one such, and I welcome your thoughts on this topic. It was triggered by a discussion of the various attitudes attributed to Boomers and Gen-X.
It seems to me that these little abbreviated families that everyone's having serve to separate the generations to a dangerous degree. The larger family (especially generations of larger families) spread out the generations, offering a much richer experience of human life at its various stages.
What I think it most troubling, with only 2.1 or 2.3 children per family, just about half the kids have no experience of having both a brother and a sister. Half the boys can't really understand the words of the lover in the Song of Songs, "My sister, my bride," and the other half have no access to what it means to care for "the least of my brothers" literally, and thus less analogically.
The sister thing alone is perilous. How much less will a young man value
chastity when he has no sister! I'm only scratching the surface here, of course. The effect of sisterless brothers could be pondered at length, and it's flip-side, the brotherless sister.
Personally, I want each of my kids to be able to say he or she has "brothers and sister," which immediately tells you there are at least five kids in the family. We have six, but only two boys, thus "brother and sisters" for the boys. Hoping for another boy to rectify the situation. But we've had four girls in a row . . .
And of course every boy needs a brother and every girl needs a sister. That almost goes without saying, and you won't find many parents -- at least not many fathers with brothers or mothers with sisters -- to disagree. Yet they still have "their two" and then "quit."
That word "quit" is kind of interesting. In a sense they are quitting, quitting the job of bringing life into the world. But "quitting" suggests a cessation of activity, while in fact they continue the "activity" of begetting life while performing other activities that undermine its natural direction -- actually more "work" rather than less, at least as far as the baby-making function is concerned (surgery, barriers, drugs).
On the other side are the NFP couples who say "quit" when they mean "quit worrying about having another baby" or "quit charting." The work -- the drudgery -- is in postponing pregnancy, a job well worth quitting, when circumstances allow.
Well . . . I do go on. This is why I don't have a blog of my own. I'd never get anything else done.

Eric J. Scheidler | | TOTB List Moderator
"God speaks to us primarily in our hearts."
-- John Henry Newman

my comments: In a culture with generally large and connected families, cousins take the place of siblings for those few families unable to have more than one or two children. Also, the attitude is very different towards the smaller families.

something else from my inbox

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A sad update on the MacFarlanes. please pray!
The court removed Bai Macfarlane's custody yesterday, because she wouldn't quit homeschooling her kids DESPITE the psychologist's finding that they seemed to be thriving. And last evening, what a scary thing, Bud Macfarlane arrived with police escort to take the kids away permanently. Picture here
I don't know if anything can be done at this point(snip) but with God all things are possible.
Why are homeschooling and breastfeeding considered grounds to take your kids, in a custody battle, instead of hallmarks of good mothering?

why oh why?

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The Abundant Life tonight is talking about parents losing children. It is breaking my heart but I can't turn it off. There are days when I wish that I could turn off my empathy.

psalm 23, of a sort

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I think I mentioned that one of the two hymns at Sophia's funeral was The King of love my shepherd is, sung to the tune St. Columba. It is #345 in the Anglican hymnal. At the time the pastor announced it, he announced #45 (apparantly his cheat sheet had a typo) and some very puzzled people were searching through the Christmas carols (#45 is Joseph dearest, Joseph mine), but since I knew the hymn from the tune, I was able to find it in the index of first lines and let those around me know as well. It is not a hymn I remember singing as a child, but for some reason the local parishes have been singing it recently.

Well, today at Mass I was pleased to hear that Father used the long gospel reading, though a little concerned at his interpretation that it called us to an inclusive and accepting attitude but was reassured when he did point out the need for repentance. Then at communion, I was stunned when the hymn sung (a cappella by a duo with heavenly voices) was The King of Love my Shepherd Is - with the traditional language and to the tune of St. Columba. I was literally in tears. I am sure that the communion ministers were wondering why I was tear-streaked and all choked up.
I don't cry easily. Ask my husband. I can deal with things mostly without turning on the fountain. I have to be able to keep it together when everyone else is falling apart. I went from a crybaby childhood to an almost stoic appearing adulthood - I think they are both problematic ways to deal with emotions but it isn't something over which I have any control. But if anything can pull out those dormant tears, it would be music. And this music did.
I spent some time at the funeral talking with my next down brother (2 years younger than me). We talked about funeral plans - he and I are the two practicing Christians of our generation - he's a non-denominational evangelical, and I'm the only Roman Catholic in the family. We both agreed that we preferred burial to cremation. His comment was something to the effect that he didn't want it to be any harder than needed for God to pull him together at the resurrection of the dead - "I know that God is God but burial just seems more Christian to me". And we talked a bit about how the hope of the resurrection helps us to make a bit more sense of the suffering in this world.
In the extended entry, I have posted the picture of Sophia that was given out at the funeral.

another prayer request

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I just heard from my mother that her mother, my 85 y/o grandmother, is in the hospital with intestinal bleeding. They are trying to manage her medically because she is not a good surgical candidate - she has a heart pacemaker, atrial stenosis, is a breast cancer survivor (40 years now) and has multiple other medical issues. Please pray that the bleeding will stop and they will not have to risk surgery. Her name is Dorothea.


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That is how I am feeling today. Jet-lagged, didn't sleep well, on the go all day from picking up one sister at the airport at 10, to brunch, then on to the church for the memorial service, then the afterwards at the parish hall, a friends house and the visit to the roadside shrine at the site of the accident. So much palpable grief!
I learned a few things also. Sophia was baptized as an infant, and had spent 8 years going to school where she was taught the basics of the Christian faith in the Anglican tradition. The funeral service was said by an Anglican priest, the readings were from the King James version. The two hymns we sang were "The King of Love my Shephard is"(with the sung amens) and "Amazing Grace". All Saint's Episcopal church hasn't changed much from when I was a schoolgirl there in 1962, the altar is still ad orientem and the choir stalls are still between the nave and the sanctuary. The pipe organ is still as wonderfully melodic as ever. If anything, the church was more 'Catholic' than many modern Catholic churches. At the front of the church was a new statue of Our Lady of Walsingham - a gift, I am told, from a recent graduating class. From Sophia's class, actually.
The church was jam packed full. We were packed in the pews like airline passengers in coach class, the side chapel was full, the back was packed and rows of chairs were set up in front of the first pew and down one side of the center aisle, and still there were those who could not enter the church but had to listen from the courtyard. My sister commented that the only time that a church should be that packed would be for a wedding or a baptism. It is a crying shame that it was for a funeral.
I also learned for the first time that the accident was close enough to home that it was heard by Sophia's mom, and that she also got a phone call from one of the other people in the car to tell her that Sophia was still alive but unconscious. Cheryl (Sophia's mom) also told me that when she got to the scene, just as the ambulance was arriving, that Sophia was 'posturing' - this is a sign of a pretty severe brain injury. Still we were all hoping and praying that a miracle would happen. I really hadn't known just how severe her initial injuries were - those of us far away were only told little bits at a time. I don't know if it would have made any difference had I known. I don't think I could have prayed any harder - but maybe I would have prayed more often? I just don't know. It's all in God's hands anyhow - but isn't it always?
I had also forgotten that Sophia's dad comes from a Jewish background - until at the very end when a family member was asked to come up and read Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. It seemed fitting that after Kaddish was said, the Anglican pastor blessed Sophia's cremated remains with holy water and incense - the holy water to remind us of baptism, the incense to symbolize how our prayers waft up to God our creator. And then we walked out of the church.
The shrine at the accident scene was also both touching and draining. Dozens of candles, many with icons of the virgin or of saints on them, all glowing their warm light against the twilight sky - notes and pictures, a huge cross, bells and ribbons and prayer flags. There is a term in Spanish (mexican spanish I think) for the roadside altars that spring up like this one did - but I can't remember what it is. At the shrine I met another mom who had lost a child at the age of 14 - this one 4 years ago to cancer. She talked briefly about what it means to be a member of a club that no one in their right mind would want to join - the mothers of dead children. Several of those who had laid Sophia out spoke about the importance of keeping this ritual, too, in the family and in the home. Sophia was born at home, with family friends aiding the midwife. It seems only fitting that many of these same friends should clean and dress her for her final bodily journey. I wish that I could have been there and at the same time am strangely relieved that I wasn't.
One platitude that I despise is when a well-meaning sympathizer says to a mourner "I know just how you feel". No one knows how another feels - even if one has been through a similar experience. No one. I've experienced loss in my life, miscarriages and the like - but that doesn't make me an expert on the grief of losing a child on the edge of adolescence. I've mourned with moms whose babies were stillborn or very premature, or sick or whatever. But that doesn't mean that I know how those moms were feeling. We just don't know.
Sophia had a life full of promise, and boom, it's gone from this world. Mercy and justice, love and hope, faith and reason, who knows what is in the mind of God? Still, what choice do we have? Lord, to whom shall we go?

doing ok

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landed safely, staying in a motel on hotel row of I-8 in San Diego. The more I fly, the more I realize I don't like to fly. I much prefer trains, but they take too long for most trips, don't go everywhere I need to go, and cost more. Sad situation for travel. I'm up early, couldn't sleep, so have fired up the laptop in the dark and am trying to be quit so everyone else can get some sleep.


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Looks like I will be flying out to San Diego Wednesday night for a funeral Thursday. It will be in the parish church of the Anglican school where I went as a child, where my Gram taught 1st grade for decades, where my parents met and married. The last time I was in an Anglican church was also a funeral liturgy.
We are still working on the details - the devil is always in the details as they say. Of course, because of the holiday weekend it will be Tuesday before I can change all the appointments that will need to be changed. My scheduling person at work will not be happy - we are already double booked for much of next week due to the holiday. I just hope that my dentist doesn't have a major fit - the policy is 2 business days before a cancellation and my appointment is Thursday morning.
I am not doing well. I thought I would be OK, but I had trouble sleeping last night, was up early this AM, and then napped a bit only to be interrupted by my sister calling to tell me the details of the funeral. Am also fretting about the hurricane in Florida, those poor families in Russia, and life, the universe, and all. Time for me to back off and let go, let God. Tough for an oldest child of 2 oldest children to do, though. Looking forward to Mass tomorrow. I wish that I could cry.

rambling on

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Last night we had to pick up the phone and call our five kids who have left home, to tell them their cousin Sophia had died. Five phone calls - and then waiting up until our youngest got home from being out with her friends to tell her. Six times to tell our children that a parent's worst nightmare had happened to their cousin. It still seems like a nightmare to me. When will I wake up and realize that it didn't happen? That the deaths of this year and all the other tragedies are just the result of indigestion? But I know that it is real. I sit here looking out my window at the sunflowers that are the sole survivors of one garden patch. I see the bluejays and the finches flying into and out of the hedge and the woods. I feel the itchiness of my healing cat scratches and realise that, yes, I am awake, and yes, this did really happen.
I come from a large family, mostly centered in Southern California. Members of my family settled in Caliornia in the 1800s, and most of my extended family is still there, scattered between Los Angeles and San Diego. For nearly 30 years, all the kin on my dad's side of the family tried to get together twice a year - a summer picnic, and a Christmas party. I'm the oldest in my generation. Sometimes we would be joined by some distant cousins, and sometimes even members of my mom's side would join in. It was riotous from time to time. Any where from 30 to 50 persons from 4 generations talking, playing games, hanging out - I am glad that my kids had the chance to see some of their relations at least once or twice a year. My cousin Cheryl (now the artistic director of the Fern Street Circus usually showed up in clown costume at some time during the festivities. We actually tried to schedule the picnic so as not to conflict with the circus, but didn't always succeed. Christmas was a little easier, and we often had the other circus members hanging out with us. Cheryl brought her kids (including Sophia) up in the circus. My niece Rebecca, a talented gymnast, started performing with the circus as a young teen.
I remember sitting down with a couple of kids and explaining just how they were related to each other. The grownups kept good track of the minutiae of "1st cousin, once removed" vs "second cousin". The kids just said "my cousin", kind of like the Hawaiian concept of calabash cousins. Family - sometimes squabbling, sometimes with bitter rivalries and sometimes with incredible generosities - some members added by blood, and some by marriage, friendship, or adoption. The last few years have been tough on family ties, as we have all begun to scatter across the USA and haven't been able to get together just to celebrate being a family. My sister (Rebecca's mom) and I both had the experience of moving away from our kids, instead of the usual event where the kids move out while the folks stay put. I can't just get in the car and drive a few hours to visit the kinfolk. Last year, we took 3 weeks and still didn't manage to visit everyone we wanted to. This year, we took a week and saw fewer still. Did manage to visit the most aged members of the family but figured that there would be time, time later, to visit the kids. And there wasn't time. I always thought the late-night phone call would be to tell me that Gram had died - or that one of my parents was critically ill - but 14 years old? In this day and age, NO ONE expects a child to die. But they do, they do. I guess that is why the church encourages us to contemplate the end things frequently - and why the phrase from the bedtime prayer "If I should die before I wake" needs to remain intact. We are born to die - and only God in His eternal 'now' knows the time and circumstances.


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Sophia died today. Her body just gave out. Thanks for the prayers, please continue to pray for her soul and for her family and friends. I don't know what I am going to do yet - flying to San Diego is not something I can do at the drop of a pin.
It has been a bad year for brain injuries. You may recall that my sister-in-law died earlier this year after suffering a blown brain aneurysm. The mom of one of the docs I work with is still suffering repeated setbacks after her aneurysm. My daughter just asked for prayer for a family friend of a good friend, whose aneurysm was diagnosed before it got to critical and who is going to surgery in a few hours.
My poor grandmother (Sophia's great-grandmother) is very angry about this whole thing. "I'm 90 years old - why doesn't God take me instead of her?" Gram has buried her husband, every other member of her generation, 2 nephews, one of her two sons, and now a great-grandchild. She's right, it doesn't seem fair.
Our God is a God of mercy and of justice. I have to believe there is a reason for this suffering - not only for my personal suffering, my family's suffering, but also for all those others who suffer now and every day. I am thinking about those schoolchildren and their families in Russia. My memory flashes back to even before 9/11 to the Branch Davidian massacre in Waco, to the Oklahoma City bombings, to all the senseless acts of violence that are part of the tapestry of life. The book of Job is scant consolation. Yet all our sufferings are as nothing before the sufferings of Christ - not only in the burden of the cross but even more so the burden of our sin.
Lord, help me to carry the burden you have given me. Help me to accept what I cannot understand nor change.

entry 1311

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I've attended 3 births this week, all with their quirks but all ending well. It has been good to be around the moms, babies, and their families. It gives me hope in a time when things seem to be very bleak on the horizon. Storms in Florida, Judge Greer re-elected, my squash and melon plants all died fruitless - yep bleak. And last night I got a phone call about my cousin Sophia - the one who was hit by the car. I hadn't had an update since a few days after the accident when things seemed to be going reasonably well.
There have been some major setbacks, and I learned a few more things that I hadn't known.
Sophia was a passenger in the right back seat of a fairly small car. About a block from her home, an unlicensed, uninsured driver blew through a stop sign and hit the car broadside, right where Sophia was sitting. Sophia's older brother was nearby, on his way to work, and saw the accident happen. He went to the car and called 911, then waited till the EMT's and police arrived before continuing on his way to work. Sophia's uncle heard the crash from the house, also called 911 and ran (on foot) to the scene. Sophia was unconscious when she was taken from the car and has never regained consciousness. She is in Children's Hospital in San Diego CA, and her mother (my 1st cousin) had been there basically 24/7. I was told that Sophia suffered a heart attack last week, that she is in kidney failure and her liver is also failing. She had at least one brain surgery to release excess pressure. Miracles do happen, but things are not looking good according to what I am hearing.
The family is also suffering greatly financially. Sophia's mom is self-employed, and has not been able to work since this happened. My sister told me that there are some fund-raising events being planned but didn't know the details. Since the perpetrator had no insurance and has no assets, Sophia's medical costs (which I am sure are astronomical) will have to be paid out of her family's resources. I don't know if you know this, but most health insurance policies have a maximum benefit - once that is exhausted the insurance company quits paying the bills. Then the family has to try to find other sources to pay for the care that is needed. (This is one reason that malpractice insurance is so costly - families faced with overwhelming medical bills try to find ANY source to pay the bills).
Anyhow - could all you folks continue to hold Sophia and her family in prayer? Please pray both for healing both of body and soul. And I will try to hang on to hope.

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The WeatherPixie

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the marriage and family category from September 2004.

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